I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume pretty much anyone who reads this and is a Christian will disagree with the above statement. Would it ruin my credibility if I said I might agree that God does help those who help themselves? At least… in the spiritual sense.
You see, I’m relatively new to the Youth Ministry scene. It did not take me long, however, to figure out that Youth Ministry is relentless. What I mean is, I was unaware that I signed up for a job that put me on call 24/7, a job that had no regard for holidays, family functions, or personal time. Little did I know but I did not sign up for a job, it was more like I adopted giant extended family. I simply did not understand the amount of time and energy required to build a ministry that will thrive; and by thrive I mean a ministry that actively invites both students and leaders to interact with the living God, a ministry that reflects who this God of ours is, and a ministry that sees the fruit of changed lives and won souls. Now, as I look back, I realize what a tall order that truly is, but at the time it was me and God, and the Bible says, “I can do most things through Christ who gives me strength”…Right?(I almost had you didn’t I?) NO… I can do ALL things, and with that confidence I proceeded onward.
Soon enough I realized I can’t do it, I’m overwhelmed and ready to call it quits. The results are not coming, there is no numerical growth to the group and worse still there is no evidence of spiritual growth. I found myself stressed out, worn out, and burned out with nothing left to give. Then God shows up.
At this point you can visually see the evidence of my frustrations on my face and in my body language. Then in an impromptu meeting with my pastor he asks me, “How are you Jon? What I mean is, how are you and God?” Then it hit me… “me and God?” I answer with a little quiver in my voice. I haven’t really thought about me and God directly for some time. I was far too busy for that. It seems I got side tracked somewhere in the midst of the chaos of Youth Ministry and began living by a new verse without even realizing it. “I can do all things through JON who gives me strength”.
I began to discover what Youth Ministry veterans have known for years. My relationship with the Lord has a direct correlation to the overall spiritual health of my students, leaders, and ministry as a whole. When I deny my personal spiritual life for the greater good, purposefully or not, I not only do myself a disservice, but also my entire ministry. You see, God created us with a regular need for rest and a regular need to be rejuvenated by His Spirit. This is why we see Jesus sneaking off for some alone time throughout His ministry. He recognized His need for the Father and made His walk with the Father His number one priority. Far above preaching, healing, fighting the religious leaders, or even saving the lost. I began to discover this Jesus who was desperately dependent on the Father and His rejuvenating Spirit. How much more, then, should that be our mission in our ministry? As we grow closer to the Father we will become all the more sensitive to the ever present whisper of His Spirit which will impact how we teach our students, disciple our leaders, interact in office politics, and reach the lost. You see, there is nothing more important to your ministry than your personal relationship with God. It did not take me long to discover that as God was working in me He sprinkled everything I did with His Spirit. As a result, messages seem to reach further, hearts are touched deeper, and lives are truly impacted by the Spirit who is living and active inside of me. Whether you are a rookie like me, or a veteran of youth ministry, whether you are full of ideas and energy, or you find yourself burned out with nothing left to give, do yourself and your ministry a favor and put you and God at the top of your priority list. It almost seems that we are to BE the work of God before we can fully and effectively DO the work of God. Maybe, just maybe, God does help those who help themselves, at least in this sense.